Nearly 34,000 people in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai are facing food shortages as a result of a prolonged drought, according to the provincial Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs.

The provincial People’s Committee has earmarked 6.3 billion VND (300,000 USD) to buy more than 483 tonnes of rice to support those in need.

The committee will also provide crop seeds worth 3.7 billion VND (176,000 USD) to help local farmers resume production following damages caused by the drought to the 2012 crop.

The drought, which has lasted for months, has dried up the provincial system of lakes, rivers, springs and reservoirs, leading to water shortages for irrigation in some areas. Farmers in Ia Grai and Duc Co districts and Pleiku City are struggling to irrigate around 8,500ha of coffee and pepper.

Head of the Hydro-meteorological Forecast Station for the Central Highlands region Pham Vu Tuan said the drought is expected to last until mid-April.

“Although there were unseasonable rains early this year, they had little effect,” he said, adding that the next rains are forecast in May.

The drought caused an estimated loss of almost 55 billion VND (2.6 million USD) for Gia Lai during the 2012 crop.

The Ministry of Finance has provided 3.2 billion VND (152,000 USD) in aid to support local farmers resume production.-VNA